Matzah ball

Matzah balls (Yiddish: קניידלעך kneydlekh pl., singular קניידל kneydl; with numerous other transliterations) or matzo balls are Ashkenazi Jewish soup dumplings made from a mixture of matzah meal, beaten eggs, water, and a fat, such as oil, margarine, or chicken fat. Matzah balls are traditionally served in chicken soup and are a staple food on the Jewish holiday of Passover, though they are not eaten during Passover by those who observe a prohibition on soaking matzah products.

Matzo ball
Alternative namesKneieydl, knaidel or kneidel in singular. Kneydlech, knaidelech or kneidelech, or knaidlach in plural.[1]
Region or stateAshkenazi Jewish areas of Central and Eastern Europe, with extensive history and cultural significance in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Israel and the Jewish diaspora[2][3][4]
Serving temperatureTemperature at which broth simmers[5][6]
Main ingredientsMatzah meal, egg, water, oil or schmaltz or margarine[5][6]

The texture of matzah balls may be light or dense, depending on the recipe. Matzah balls made from some recipes float in soup; others sink.[7]

Transliterations of knaidel

Although there are official transliterations of Yiddish words into English by the YIVO Institute, there are many non-standard transliterations.[1] Alternate transliterations of the Yiddish term for matzah ball, in the singular, include: knaidl,[8] knaidel,[1] kneidl,[9] and kneidel.[1] Transliterations in the plural include: knaidels,[10] knaidlach,[11] knaidelach,[12] kneidels,[13] kneidlach,[14] kneidelach,[5] kneydls,[15] kneydels,[16] and kneydlach.[4]

The various transliterations of the term gave rise to minor controversy in June 2013, when it was the winning word in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali of New York spelled "knaidel" correctly in accordance with Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the official dictionary of the Bee, to become the champion.[1] However, there was controversy whether that was indeed the definitive spelling of the term, with others preferring "knaydel", "kneydel", "knadel", or "kneidel".[1]

See Knödel for further information about the origin of the word and the food itself.


The exact origins of matzo balls – and the traditional matzo ball soup – are unknown.[17] Some historians posit that the copious amounts of matzo meal produced during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century[Incomplete thought—needs elaboration], others believe that Jews used the crumbs leftover from matzo baking to produce the filling additions to their soup.[18] It is believed that Jews began placing matzo balls in their soup as Eastern European cuisine began introducing dumplings in traditional foods, and Jews were adapting them to their dietary restrictions and culinary tastes.[19] German, Austrian, and Alsatian Jews were the first to prepare matzo balls for their soup; middle eastern Jews introduced additional variations.[18] An early recipe for matzoh ball soup, made with beef stock, is found in The Jewish manual, or, Practical information in Jewish and modern cookery (1846).[20]


Schmaltz (chicken fat) imparts a distinctive flavour, but many modern cooks prefer vegetable oils or margarine.[6][21] The use of butter, while otherwise suitable, violates the Jewish law of kashrut prohibiting consumption of milk and meat products together, if the balls are eaten with chicken soup. The balls are dropped into a pot of salted boiling water or chicken soup, then the heat turned down to a simmer and a lid placed on the pot. The balls swell during the cooking time of 20 to 30 minutes. Adding kosher baking powder for lightness is permissible, even for Passover.[22]

While the recipe is simple, there are also ready matzah ball mixes, typically to be added to beaten egg.[23]

World records

In 2008 Joey Chestnut held the world record for eating matzah balls: 78 of exactly 3+12 ounces (99 g) in 8 minutes, at the Inaugural World Matzoh Ball Eating Championship, a charity event.[24]

In 2010, the world's largest matzah ball was prepared by Chef Jon Wirtis of Shlomo and Vito's New York City Delicatessen, located in Tucson, Arizona. He created a 426-pound (193 kg) matzah ball for New York's Jewish Food Festival. The ingredients were 125 pounds (57 kg) of matzah meal, 25 pounds (11 kg) of schmaltz, over 1,000 eggs and 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of potato starch.[25] This broke the previous record set by Chef Anthony Sylvestri of Noah's Ark Deli to raise awareness for a charity basketball game,[26] which weighed 267 pounds (121 kg) and was 29.2 inches (74 cm) long and was made from "1,000 eggs, 80 pounds of margarine, 200 pounds of matzah meal, and 20 pounds of chicken base".[27]

See also


  1. "Some Say the Spelling of a Winning Word Just Wasn't Kosher". New York Times. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  2. Nathan, Joan (2011). Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook. Random House. p. 12. ISBN 9780307777850.
  3. Durham, Michael (2009). National Geographic Traveler: New York (3d ed.). National Geographic Books. p. 19. ISBN 9781426205231.
  4. Wasserstein, Bernard (2012). On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War. Simon and Schuster. p. 89. ISBN 9781416594277.
  5. Levy, Faye. 1,000 Jewish Recipes (electronic ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. RA2–PA27. ISBN 9780544176348.
  6. Chicago Tribune Staff (2013). Good Eating's Passover Recipes (electronic). Agate Publishing. p. PT58. ISBN 9781572844490.
  7. Roman, Alison (2 April 2014). "How to Master Matzo Ball Soup". Bon Appetit.
  8. Cohen, Jayne (26 September 2012). Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations (electronic ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. PT545. ISBN 978-0544187030.
  9. Aish HaTorah Women's Organization (1988) [1987]. The Taste of Shabbos (2d, corrected ed.). Feldheim Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 9780873064262.
  10. Kancigor, Judy Bart (2007). Cooking Jewish. Workman Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 9780761135814.
  11. Marks, Gil (1999). The World of Jewish Cooking. Simon and Schuster. p. 254. ISBN 9780684835594.
  12. Kanter, Beth (2012). Washington, DC Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Nation's Capital. Globe Pequot. p. 70. ISBN 9780762781485.
  13. Lehman-Wilzig, Tami (2007). Passover Around the World. Kar-Ben Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 9780822588030.
  14. Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, eds. (1912). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Vol. 4. Funk and Wagnalls. p. 257.
  15. Patai, Raphael (2000). Apprentice in Budapest: Memories of a World That Is No More. Lexington Books. p. 156. ISBN 9780739102107.
  16. Plaut, Joshua (2012). A Kosher Christmas. Rutgers University Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780813553818.
  17. Levi, Yona. "Where Does Matzah Ball Soup Come From?". aishcom. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  18. sds2185 (11 May 2016). "Matzah Ball Soup: History and Spelling Tests". Mapping Yiddish New York. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  19. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Matzo Balls". The Forward. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  20. The Jewish manual, or, Practical information in Jewish and modern cookery : with a collection of valuable recipes & hints relating to the toilette. London: T. & W. Boone. 1846. pp. 9–10.
  21. Vegetarian Fatfree Passover Recipes
  22. Tori Avey (25 March 2012). ""Floater" Matzo Balls – Recipe for Floating Matzo Balls". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  23. Aviva Goldfarb (12 April 2011). "Speedy Quick Matzo Ball Soup". PBS Parents. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  24. TED POWERS (6 March 2008). "Marvin: This ball's for you". Jewish Herald-Voice. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  25. Matzo ball history has been made
  26. World's biggest matzo ball unveiled in NYC: 267-pound ball gobbled up by hungry lower East Siders
  27. Weiner, David (6 August 2009). "Giant Matzah Ball Sets Guinness World Record". Huffington Post.
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